Ode to the West Wind abounds in spectacular pictures, drawn from nature. The poet in Shelley has become a painter here. He draws in ease, as he sings in passion. Shelley’s powerful images of Nature are found in his description of the activities of the west wind on the land, in the sky, and on the sea.
The poem starts with an attractive portrait of the devastation caused by the west wind on the land. The wind carries away the dead, dry and hectic red leaves with great motion. It makes the trees shed their last leaves. The wind also carries away seeds and stores them under the snow during the whole of winter. The entire picture of Shelley here is one of darkness and devastation.
This picture is followed by the plentiful and colorful scene of nature during spring. The west wind takes away leaves and seeds into their wintry graves. Out of these seeds and leaves germinate a new world of nature.
The poet then describes the role of the west wind in the sky. The west wind scatters loose clouds all over the sky. It covers the whole sky with thick black clouds. The approach of a terrible storm is indicated. The wind brings at last torrential rain, lightning, and hail. The picture here is full of the marks of blackness and destruction. The west wind is here a fierce and invincible force. It causes terrible commotion in the sky.
The poet lastly describes the effects of the west wind on the sea. The west wind produces a slight stir on the surface of the Mediterranean sea. The poet draws vividly the picture of the submerged palaces and towers, covered with mosses and flowers. The whole description is touched with light and grace.
This tranquil picture of the Mediterranean sea is followed by that of the west wind on the Atlantic. The west wind blows upon the Atlantic with heavy pressure. It divides the surface of the ocean into a number of chasms. It causes a great commotion all over the sea. Even the vegetation world, lying at the bottom of the sea, is uprooted. The picture drawn here is one of darkness and dread. The sea-water grows grey. The trees, at the bottom of the sea, collide with one another and are destroyed.
Shelley’s images are all vivid and vigorous. These are all graphic yet precise. What is more, these pictures are antithetical, with dread and darkness, followed by grace and liveliness.